The Well: A place of deep inspiration

By Sarah Todd


By Sarah Todd

23 November 2020

One of Europe’s most ambitious spa and wellness projects, The Well required an investment in excess of £35m (€45m) before it opened in December 2015.

Situated in a forest ten miles south of Oslo at Kolbotn, the three-storey, adult-only spa was created by self-made billionaire Stein Erik Hagen. Bringing global spa cultures to the Norwegian market, the 10,500sqm spa offers a Japanese bathhouse, Norway’s first onsen garden, a Moroccan rasul, a Northern Lights laconium, a Jungle sauna and a Turkish hammam. The bold, architectural-led surroundings also include 15 saunas and steam baths, 100 showers, 11 pools, waterfall grottos and 25 treatment suites.

With plans to open a 104-room wellness hotel adjoining the spa in June 2021, we spoke to The Well’s spa and sustainability manager, Anette Ose, to find out how it has adapted and evolved post-lockdown.

Impeccable design creates a harmonious environment at The Well

When did you reopen the spa and what has been the reaction from guests?

We reopened for treatments from late April and then the rest of the facility followed in early June. Our team put a lot of effort into creating very strict rules for infection control and we deeply considered how to communicate all these new rules to our guests. The feedback from both our staff and guests reflects that they feel well taken care of. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see how many people were ready to get back to their treatments and eagerly waiting for the spa to reopen.

How have you embraced social distancing?

Our spa is very social and we can accommodate 960 guests at any one time. Social distancing has created a natural drop in capacity but we are still busy, so we have introduced a number of ways to remind guests.

In the sauna we have provided one-metre sauna sticks, so people can use these to politely remind each other of distance. We also have stickers and screens throughout the spa to remind people to keep their distance.

“Many of the operational changes that we’ve made will absolutely stay with us, even after Covid-19. Overall, our team has worked really well together and I feel that we are stronger then ever.”

Anette Ose

Spa and sustainability manager, The Well

We have carefully calculated the numbers in each of our saunas to optimise capacity, as well as those using our shuttle bus from central Oslo. We also removed tables from the restaurant to create extra space.

In our retail area, we’ve removed testers and politely ask guests not to touch products they aren’t purchasing.

Have you adapted your treatment menu at all?

We first opened for treatments end of April and then opened the rest of the spa in June, so we were not closed for very long and we began with a somewhat reduced menu of facials and massages.

Initially the use of PPE was optional so our therapists had masks if our guests preferred them. However, our skin therapists have been using masks all the time for facials. We had an amazing summer season but infection rates have risen. There is now a recommendation for masks on public transport but it’s still optional.

The spas range of Babor and Elemis protocols have continued to be popular with guests

We chose not to open the hammam at first as it used the steam bath and sauna. Neither did we open manicure and pedicure areas or offer waxing services in spring as they involved close contact. But we successfully began all these services in late summer once we felt comfortable.

How have your treatment delivery and take-up been affected?

Eighty percent of our treatment revenue still comes from massage and facials, which we offer in partnership with Babor and Elemis, and these are still the most popular for us. Of course, we thoroughly disinfect all treatment rooms after each use.

We are not able to serve water or teas after treatments as we used to but we have a large restaurant and wellness bar so we ask our guests to take refreshments there. It’s a small change but helps us to manage strict hygiene protocols.

How successful have your attempts been to create a ‘new normal’ for guests?

It seems we have all adjusted to the circumstances pretty well, but people sometimes need prompts, which we deliver through friendly reminders from our staff as well as signage around the spa.

We have put in a lot of work to communicate our efforts to control hygiene and the feedback I am getting is that the customers are very happy with what we are doing.

The Wells luxurious indoor poolscape

I think it’s important not to overwhelm their visit with instructions and too much signage as people are coming to relax and enjoy time with us. They know we are taking responsibility on their behalf so that is reassuring and relaxing in itself.

Currently, it feels like things are getting back to normal but we are still following instructions from the government and taking the situation very seriously.

What have been the biggest challenges?

There have been a lot of things to overcome during this period, but I have to say that closing down the whole spa was the hardest thing we have ever done.

Covid-19 has affected people’s life in so many ways, both economically and socially, so keeping in touch with the team during this period was vitally important, whether that was via Facebook, email or phone.

Guests enjoy the pure Norwegian air from an outdoor hot tub

Also, with the cold autumn and winter season coming up, I anticipate that it may be hard to keep all of our employees in work and out of quarantine.

How have your team responded to the challenge?

They have been impeccable. We’ve had an extremely good summer this year, with many guests visiting and some very good results. They have all been working so hard. We fostered a sense of teamwork in a variety of ways, including encouraging all of our staff to help each other during our busier times.

What positives have you taken from the experience of the past few months?

This period has challenged us on every level and forced us to rethink our whole organisation to make it even more effective. Many of the operational changes that we’ve made will absolutely stay with us, even after Covid-19. Overall, our team has worked really well together and I feel that we are stronger then ever.

Spa statistics

The Well, Norway

Owner: Stein Erik Hagen
Design consultant: Stylt Trampoli
Architect: Halvorsen & Reine
Hydrothermal consultant: Thermarium
Spa and sustainability manager: Anette Ose
Spa team: Approx. 150
Spa area: 10,500sqm
Thermal/wet areas: 15 saunas and steam baths, 100 showers, 11 pools
Treatment rooms: 25
Suppliers: Marset, LZF lamps, Karl Andersson och Söner, BetongDesign, Gervasoni, POINT 1920, Infurn Contract, Svea Contract, Manutti, Andreu World, Arne Norell
Product partners: Elemis, Babor, Skin Better, Molton Brown

Be inspired...

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Better skin...

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Design for spas...

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